-body vs. -one

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Jan 3 21:14:38 UTC 2009

At 3:40 PM -0500 1/3/09, Wilson Gray wrote:
>For years, I've racked my intuitions to see whether I could find a
>difference between the two in my grammar, but I've never had any real
>success at it. Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah, but somebody stole
>my gal. What can I tell you?

Ah, I was starting to go through song lyrics, and quickly concluded
that whatever differences between the forms there might be, they're
easily trumped by metrical considerations.


>All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
>come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>-Mark Twain
>On Sat, Jan 3, 2009 at 12:54 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>  Subject:      Re: -body vs. -one
>>  At 11:41 AM -0600 1/3/09, Murrah Lee wrote:
>>>I saw an old Sherlock Holmes movie, "Terror by Night," last night, and
>>>one of the characters-- Inspector LaStrade, I think--said that
>>>"Somebody (did something)" rather than "Someone (did something)".  I
>>>grew up in East Texas in the 1950s, and we always used the -body
>>>form.  However, I have lived in Iowa and Michigan as an adult, and
>>>there they generally use the -one form.  I assume that Southerners
>>>tend to use -body and Northerners -one. I wonder if someone can give
>>>insight into the cultural origins of the use of -body (as in somebody)
>>>vs. -one (as in someone).  I suspect it reflects that the South was
>>>influenced more by southern and southwestern England while New England
>>>and the Midwest by eastern England.
>>  Aren't there a lot of speakers and writers who use both forms freely?
>>  I'm not saying interchangeably, since I'm sure there are subtle
>>  differences, possibly in register (-one being more more formal?) but
>>  I'm hard pressed to say what the difference is for me, and I'm sure I
>>  use both in relatively free distribution.
>>  It would be interesting to see if there's any quantitative work on
>>  this, with regional or other parameters of variation.
>>  LH
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